- Accident date
- Accident area
- 60 nautical miles west of Cherbourg, Normandy
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Weather conditions
- Product transported
- Diverse substances
- Quantity transported
- 1,380 containers
- Nature of pollutant
- Pesticides, nitrocellulose, sulphur, phenol, methyl-ketone
- Quantity spilled
- 88 containers
- Ship / structure type
- Container ship
- 109 m
- SCAC Delmas-Vieljeux, France
- SCAC Delmas-Vieljeux (Bolloré Group), France
On 8 December 1993, the French container ship Sherbro was en route from Cherbourg to Montoir (near Nantes) when it was caught in a heavy storm. Several rows of containers broke loose and fell overboard while others, thrown off balance, collapsed on deck.
In total, 88 containers fell overboard, 10 of which contained dangerous substances: two types of pesticides (12.2 tonnes), nitrocellulose (21.6 tonnes), sulphur (1 tonne), phenol (200 kg), methyl-ketone (35 kg) and a flammable product (3.6 tonnes). Among these substances, the pesticides presented the greatest threat for the environment due to their persistence and therefore their bioaccumulation potential in marine organisms.
Cedre was contacted by the authorities to conduct a characterisation study and drift calculations for the containers of pesticides, as well as to liaise with the manufacturer of these substances.
One container of pesticides was recovered at sea. 4 others released their plastic sacks of pollutant which washed up on the French shoreline (Manche, Pas-de-Calais and Somme areas). A few weeks later, the Dutch (Wadden Islands) and German (Cuxhaven) coasts were also affected. Operations to recover these sacks were initiated and resulted in the recovery of 91% of the pesticides lost overboard.
On 9 December, the Sherbro was rerouted to Brest to organise the tangle of containers. Around 80 containers had broken loose, some of which were badly damaged and were unpacked in port. They contained chlorine, hydrochloric acid, diisocyanate, toluene, hydrogen peroxide and cresol. The damaged boxes were wrapped in polyethylene sheets to collect any leaks and were stored in compliance with product compatibility.
On 11 October 2007, the court of appeal of Versailles sentenced the Sherbro’s shipowner, the Bolloré Group, to reimburse the cost of container recovery operations (476,000 €), with interest. On 16 December 2008, the supreme court confirmed this judgement.
- MAMACA Emina, GIRIN Michel, LE FLOCH Stéphane and EL ZIR Rawad, 2009, Review of chemical spills at sea and lessons learnt, Interspill 2009 conference
- Cedre, 1994, Synthèse sur la perte des conteneurs par le navire “Sherbro” le 8 décembre 1993
- Lostcont Project, 2008, Response to the problems of overboard loss of containers from ships in the Bay of Biscay and its approaches
- Ouest-France, 19 décembre 2008, Produits toxiques en mer : Bolloré paiera la facture
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